Danica Patrick has big plans for when she's done racing

Columnist
Yahoo Sports

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — This offseason, Danica Patrick launched her Warrior brand of athletic wear through the Home Shopping Network. She has further plans to expand the line, both moving slightly upscale and to other retailers.

This offseason, Danica Patrick wrote a book (release date in the future) about healthy living, including not just directions on how to evaluate and cook healthy food, but how to view food as medicine for the body.

This offseason, as part of the book, Danica Patrick designed a workout routine that she is currently testing via 700 people online, from teenagers to her own nearly 60-year-old mother. It comes complete with message board motivation and direct advice and discussions with Patrick. It’s intense.

This offseason, Danica Patrick moved forward with the winery she bought a few years back and has since developed in Sonoma County, Calif. A mailing list has been established with an eye on the 2014 vintage moving to stores and restaurants across the country. Somnium Wines (“Dream” in Latin) is an ambitious attempt at creating a high-end, boutique brand.

Danica Patrick is entering her fifth season in NASCAR and says she will give it up when it’s not fun to her anymore. (AP)
Danica Patrick is entering her fifth season in NASCAR and says she will give it up when it’s not fun to her anymore. (AP)

This offseason, Danica Patrick had four days off, total, which she used to go Mexico on vacation. The rest of the time she was preparing for the 2017 NASCAR season, including Sunday’s running of the Daytona 500. If early indications mean anything – a fourth-place-finish in last week’s Clash and a sixth in Thursday’s Duel – she didn’t miss a beat on that, either. She starts in the seventh row for the 500.

“It’s been a pretty good start. I’ve had my best finishes in NASCAR,” Patrick said while sitting at a table outside her motorhome in the Daytona infield Friday afternoon. “And I get it, those are the Clash and the Duel and not the full race, but I didn’t finish fourth and sixth ever before.”

We’ll see if that translates to the Great American Race. We’ll also see how her other budding businesses translate in those worlds, although those seem like perfect fits.

Know this regardless: at age 34, Danica Patrick is building an empire off a health and fitness (and a little wine) brand that comes in heavy on authenticity, expertise and passion. She won’t race forever. The fame that came with being a racer, however, may allow her to inspire proper diets, exhaustive workouts and the achievement of personal goals for a long, long time.

“Three hundred and sixty degrees,” she said of her lifestyle vision.

It isn’t even about having people lose weight or gain strength or feel fulfilled. Patrick wants everything to go further, to get her clients “mentally fit enough to do it.” She is unlocking internal power in every way imaginable.

Around NASCAR, Patrick remains an uncertainty. This is her fifth full-time season on the Cup circuit and the results haven’t been great. Not just zero victories, but no postseason appearances and a dearth of even top-10 finishes – just six and none last year.

Despite being one of the most marketable and popular drivers here, she lost her GoDaddy sponsorship after the 2015 season and then saw Nature’s Bakery bail just one season into a three-year deal after 2016.

Patrick doesn’t need to be reminded of the struggles. As is her style, she attacks everything directly and is well aware of the idea that starting all these businesses will spur questions that she is setting herself up for a post-racing life. There’s no need to connect the dots, though.

“I’d be considering how long I want to race whether I have anything else to do or not,” she notes.

And how long is that?

“I don’t know,” Patrick told Yahoo Sports. “I want to race and have fun and running 20th and in back is not fun. I want to do better. And if it doesn’t start to go better then it’s not worth it. I’m not out there to just be a car in the field. I don’t have to race because I need the money. I don’t have to do any of that.

“If it goes better … as I was saying the other night, if it goes really well, I’ll think about how much longer I want to do it because that’s the fun,” she continued. “I do this. I love this. It’s one of those things that I still love and want to do. And I just believe in myself. I believe I can do it. I have come a long way.”

But if this year is like last year, when she finished 24th in the standings?

“No, that thought that doesn’t come to mind,” Patrick said. “In the next couple years if it’s not going great, then [I’ll] look at it, because it’s been more than a couple years, it’s been a good handful of years. It’s been too long.

“The frustrating thing is, a couple years ago we were in the top 12 and qualifying well,” she continued. “And we were in the top 15 … and I feel like I am a better driver than I was a couple of years ago.”

I mean….. it seems like I should be pretty close to getting into kapotasana (from there I need to work my hands back and grab my heels, and get my hips higher – I know) but thats all the further I can get my hands back. ???? holy shoulders. Someday! Oh, Ella came in and left her toy for the camera. ???????? thanks for the sweet leggings @upsidedownmama!

A post shared by Danica Patrick (@danicapatrick) on Oct 8, 2016 at 3:14pm PDT


Patrick’s goal this year is to reach the playoffs, which features the top 16 drivers.

“In the short term it’s about being in the top 15 every single weekend,” Patrick said. She shrugs off the stock line about her never winning a NASCAR race as some kind of sign that she hasn’t been successful. First off, there has been a long line of Indy Car drivers who came to NASCAR and left winless. And second …

“Winning a race is not the be all and end all of how you measure success,” she said.

Perhaps most of all, that’s true for the customers her brands will cater. NASCAR fans, plenty of who don’t like Patrick, want a victory to justify her presence. Patrick wants to win too, becoming one of the few who have won in both Indy Car and NASCAR.

To many though, just being here is a victory. There is no denying the strength and determination it takes for anyone to get here, let alone to be the only woman competing in a man’s sport.

Besides, her fitness regime is the real deal. Videos of her doing yoga or CrossFit or cooking on Instagram routinely go viral. She was a champion on the Food Network show “Chopped.” No one can deny her credibility on food and fashion. We’d all do well to be as healthy as Danica Patrick.

The businesses are real. So too is the racing. The critics don’t matter. She can do both, she said, not just managing it but finding that the busier she is, the more efficient she becomes.

“I really don’t give a crap about what people think about my commitment or my interests or where my love lies,” Patrick said. “I love a lot of things and if I don’t love something I wouldn’t do it. I don’t have to do any of them, including racing. I do them all because I love them.

“I have been lucky enough to be able to make other businesses out of my hobbies,” she continued. “Everybody has hobbies. I had the opportunity and I took it. Just as I said in the very beginning about being a girl in racing, I have to use it to my advantage as much as possible because there are other parts that aren’t an advantage.”

The offseason is over. Danica Patrick is focused on Sunday’s Daytona 500 and the season that unfolds following it. Maybe her fifth year is her best year, the breakthrough year. If not, then she’ll reevaluate.

She’s has plans, though. She has goals. As always, she fears nothing.

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